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7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

7 Portfolio Tricks That Will Land You A Job

    Layoffs. Downsizing. Transitions. It’s a scary time to be out in the job market. If you’re hunting for a job, you’ve probably been handing out resumes like crazy. The problem is that, when you really look at a resume, every single one is the same. They’re all on the same size of paper, easily shuffled into a stack, just the way human resource managers like them.

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    There’s just not a lot you can do to stand out with a resume: hiring managers have no qualms about tossing oddly-sized resumes, funny-smelling CVs and lengthy explanations about where you’ve been lately. No hard feelings about it — I did a stint in HR and I would do anything to get through that never-ending stack of resumes, even if it meant denying someone the opportunity for a job just because they had sprayed perfume on their resume.

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    There is a way to stand out without irritating the hiring manager, though: a portfolio. I mentioned fairly recently that a portfolio can go a long way in convincing a prospective employer, and that portfolios aren’t just for art students. You can have a portfolio in any career — if you paint houses, you can take photos of the work you’ve done. If you’re a software developer, you can take screenshots of your applications. No matter your field, though, there are a few ways to make your portfolio shine.

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    1. Put your portfolio online. If you email your portfolio as an attachment, no hiring manager will open it for fear of viruses. If you drop off a physical portfolio, every hiring manager will cringe at the thought of going through more paperwork. But if you simply email a link, you’ve actually got a chance of getting someone in human resources to click on it — after all, it’s just a link. It won’t take any time at all to click on it, and what’s the worst that could happen? So take the time to scan everything in. It’s worth your while.
    2. Don’t require any downloads. Don’t include PDFs, Word files or anything else that a prospective employer has to download and open. That goes double for executable files — apologies to all the fantastic developers out there, but employers would rather look at pretty screenshots than try to figure out the software you created. This may mean that you will need to take the time to ‘improve’ a project that you did quite awhile again: maybe you’ll need to add some HTML to a written document.
    3. Organize your portfolio. You don’t need to alphabetize your projects or anything like that, but it should be easy for prospective employers to figure out what to click. That means no fancy flash, no unlabelled links. As a quick litmus test, try sitting Grandma down in front of your portfolio / website. If she can’t figure out where to click, it’s guaranteed that there is an HR manager out there who will be equally lost.
    4. Add context. Write labels and descriptions for the items you’re including in your portfolio. A memo that solved a crisis at your last job may not impress a prospective employer if they don’t recognize the effect it had. Descriptions are also an opportunity to toot your own horn — you can talk about the problems you encountered and the skills you used. No matter how polished the items in your portfolio, though, your descriptions should be equally polished. Consider them a writing sample and an opportunity to show off those great communication skills that every employer requires.
    5. Focus your portfolio. Even if you’re a salesman / graphic designer / clog dancer, your portfolio doesn’t need to reflect that. Instead, you should focus on the job you’re actually going for. You can create separate portfolios for each of your career paths, but focus on what you really want to do next, not what you’ve done in the past.
    6. Go for the multimedia. Not all job skills can be expressed in writing or through photographs. Out to prove your sales skills? Maybe a few graphs showing how you improved sales are your best bet. Looking for a career as a mascot? A video of you working the crowd is bound to impress more than a picture of you standing around in costume. It’s your portfolio: you set the rules on what sort of media you want to include.
    7. Get your own domain name — or not. If you’re planning to maintain your portfolio in the long run (which can be a good thing even if you’re planning to stay with your new job for the long haul), sure, getting your own domain name is a good idea. But using one of the many sites that allow you to post samples of your work is also a good option. Say you’re an interior decorator. Your prospective boss won’t care if you can maintain a website. Focus on taking high quality photos of your work, and post them to Flickr. Your portfolio can be that easy. Just beware of user names that seem brilliant at 3 AM.

    As a rule, I try to limit my portfolio to projects I’ve actually completed at others’ requests. As awesome as I think some of my more personal work is, it hasn’t been through anything close to the critical process that something I’ve done for hire has. But if you’re looking for a few items to pad your portfolio, volunteer your services. Your work will still go through a critical process, but you don’t have to find a job just to improve your chances of getting another job.

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    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

    Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

    “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

    But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

    Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

    1. Always Have a Book

    It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

    Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

    2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

    We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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    Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

    3. Get More Intellectual Friends

    Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

    Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

    4. Guided Thinking

    Albert Einstein once said,

    “Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

    Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

    5. Put it Into Practice

    Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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    If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

    In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

    6. Teach Others

    You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

    Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

    7. Clean Your Input

    Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

    I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

    Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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    8. Learn in Groups

    Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

    Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

    9. Unlearn Assumptions

    You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

    Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

    Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

    10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

    Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

    Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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    11. Start a Project

    Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

    If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

    12. Follow Your Intuition

    Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

    Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

    13. The Morning Fifteen

    Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

    If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

    14. Reap the Rewards

    Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

    15. Make Learning a Priority

    Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

    More About Continuous Learning

    Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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